65 comments

Contemporary Sad Drama

Andriy watched his father move an anti-tank mine out of the roadway using his bare hands, all the while smoking a Chinese cigarette, the tobacco loose and pungent. 

“Your name, Andriy, means manly and strong,” his father explained through clenched teeth, delicately carrying the explosive. “I named you for days like these. You will be a soldier. A warrior.” 

“How can I be a warrior? I’m twelve,” Andriy replied, standing a ways off, hands at the ready to cover his ears. 

“Twelve is old enough to be the greatest of warriors. You stand by me. Well, not exactly now,” his father laughed. “Stand by me later. Then you will see.”

His father took a few steps off of the paved asphalt and gingerly laid the ordnance down on the frozen ground, genuinely surprised when nothing terrible happened. He shrugged, pleased with himself and fate, broadly smiling at his only son.  

Embarrassed at his own fearfulness, Andriy looked down at his feet, clad in army boots two sizes too big. His mother demanded he wear two pairs of thick woolen socks and several pairs of underwear. The bulk didn’t help much against the cold; it just made his limbs feel stiff and unresponsive. 

It was time to move on. There was still far to go, but it was hard to gauge the exact distance as most of the road signs were down, removed to confuse those who did not belong to this land.

The morning had been bright, crisp, surreal. Frost decorated the scrubby grasslands and broken car windshields and muddy tank tracks. The icy patterns made Andriy yearn for his grandmother’s Sunday night dinners, served on pristine white tablecloths embroidered with lace. On her table were large ceramic bowls brimming with rich food, cloth napkins, and heirloom silver candlesticks, lit whenever she said her prayers to a God he hoped still existed. 

His stomach growled at the thought of her warm rye bread served with horseradish and thin slices of salo. If he tried hard enough, he could taste the cabbage rolls, hot and steaming, served with creamy dollops of sour cream. He kicked a rock with his big boot, swallowing hard to choke back his self-pity, more bitter than the cigarette smoke.

He was cold and he was hungry.

“Andriy, come,” his father said. “It’s a long walk. Eat this.” Andriy took a small tin of canned veal and ate it with some hard biscuits. Both were awful, but they stopped his stomach from complaining. 


After a few hours, a trickle of passersby grew into a steady stream of refugees, plodding by a father and son who advanced towards the city, black smoke snaking into the low sky. A constant pounding and rat-a-tat-tat’s echoed from far enough away not to overly concern Andriy. He’d worry about those things when he had to.

They walked on the far left of the road, right behind a thin line of men heading into the city while a cacophony of civilians flooded out. Women with red swollen eyes jostled babies who screamed in the cold, diapers full of waste with no relief on hand. A heavily pregnant lady with a mane of thick black hair walked splay-footed, holding her lower back, ignoring the early signs of labor. A grandmother appeared, helping the mother-to-be into a pushcart, yelling orders to boys about Andriy’s age. She was obeyed without question.

Other retreating young men cast sideways glances towards Andriy, as if they were ashamed for being with the women. Old grandfathers with wispy beards looked wistfully at the determined men heading into the fray, men whose foreheads were creased with brokenhearted rage. But the old men had seen the same troubles in their own day, disheartened that no lessons had been learned. 

For a moment Andriy felt the urge to join the exodus of people, heading away from death, to a place where food could be easily heated on a stove and electronic games were available to wile away the hours.

His father turned, caught his eye, and Andriy’s face grew red and hot. He trudged faster in the ridiculous boots, matching his father stride for stride on the walk to the capital city. 


A small stray dog found Andriy as he walked with his father through an underpass. 

“He’s hungry,” Andriy remarked, the dog licking his fingers, lapping up traces of grease from the canned veal. Andriy knelt down to scratch the dog behind its ears. The animal’s ribs were pronounced, his gray fur matted with mud. 

“We are all hungry,” his father groused. “And the dog is hurt. It would be a blessing for it to be put down.” Andriy’s eyes widened as his father clicked the safety off his army-issued pistol.

“No!” the boy yelled, covering the animal’s body with his own. Andriy looked up in time to see a flicker of confusion in his father’s eyes. His mother was right. He was too young to be here.

“Andriy,” his father muttered. “The dog cannot walk.”

“Then I will carry him,” Andriy said, taking the small dog into his coat, the animal nestling into the warmth of his chest. He zipped the coat tightly around the dog just as the growls of low-flying aircraft roared overhead, strafing bullets all about them. 

He watched his father. 

His father didn’t flinch, so neither did Andriy. 

And the dog had fallen asleep.


At night, Andriy heard his father’s voice among the group of soldiers they’d joined, telling stories of untrained teenagers driving tanks and foreign vehicles running out of gas in farmers’ fields. The men passed around a bottle and traded good natured insults and rare curses on their enemies.

“We should strike tonight,” his father suggested. “No one would expect a counterattack this late.”

“Surely there will be help from other countries—”

This comment kicked off hopeful speculation and angry recrimination.

“God helps those who help themselves—and sometimes not even then!” 

The men laughed, but their conversation made Andriy feel colder, even as the dog shallowly breathed next to his heart. 

He tried to listen as the men plotted, but waves of fatigue eventually drowned him in a dark dreamless sleep.


“Boy,” a stoned-faced man shook him awake. “Boy!”

“Yes?”

“You are Andriy?” 

Andriy nodded.

“He is dead,” the man said somberly.

Andriy had known for hours, as the dog’s body no longer warmed his own.

“Will you help me bury him?” Andriy asked quietly. 

The other man looked crestfallen. There wasn’t enough of his father left to bury

Andriy took the dog from his coat, and the man’s face softened. 

“Yes, I will help you,” he replied, wincing at the sound of incoming shells. “But for now, come stand by me.”  


March 02, 2022 18:24

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65 comments

Paul Brown
23:06 Mar 06, 2022

Another gem Deidra, and another war to watch unfolding, with pain and suffering. I think man(not woman) will never really change, we seem to carry the seeds of our own destruction in our DNA. I think a lot of sons will lose their fathers and even sadder will be that many fathers will bury their own precious sons and daughters. Great job, really enjoyed the story. :)

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23:37 Mar 06, 2022

Thanks, Paul. War is just so wasteful. And I fear you are right with humanity's self destructive tendencies. Seems anything is preferable to boredom, even horror.

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Paul Brown
00:35 Mar 07, 2022

Spot on, not enough effort trying to give the worlds children a safer greener more peaceful future, I dread to think of what they will eventually inherit. I think I have been lucky to live a long life in a safe country without the privations that conflict brings.

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15:18 Mar 07, 2022

Unfortunately, that can change too easily these days. Ukraine was safe two weeks ago.

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Hayley Johnson
20:46 Mar 10, 2022

Aw this touches my heart

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Arakshitha V
07:00 May 30, 2022

Wow! The entire story was brilliant! I especially loved how Andriy wanted to take care of the dog, even after it died and asked the man if he would help him bury it. It was beautifully written! Definitely one of my favourites on here!

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Kevin Broccoli
15:31 Mar 13, 2022

This one is just a knockout. The paragraph about the old men struck me especially hard. Well done as always.

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16:05 Mar 13, 2022

The first thing I do when I wake up is to check to see if Zelensky is alive. May all the feckless politicians of the world strive to be half the man he is. Slava Ukraini

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Cindy Strube
17:56 Mar 11, 2022

😫I wanted your story to win… The winning story is beautiful, but yours is so relevant - I’m disappointed!

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18:03 Mar 11, 2022

The winning story was exceptional. We need more mothers with their children in quilts and less dead fathers and puppies. I'm happy "Home of the Brave" won. "Oskar" was excellent as well!

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Cindy Strube
18:54 Mar 11, 2022

Such a gracious response… Yes, it’s true - the winning story is extraordinary! I just read “Oskar” (on your recommendation) - you are correct.

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Jesper Jee
08:09 Mar 11, 2022

Heartbreaking story I saw coming but still managed to hit me. The mark of a great writer Deidra!

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13:42 Mar 11, 2022

Thanks, Jesper. Awful to write. Awful to live...

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John Wilson
21:20 Mar 10, 2022

it was interesting, but I liked it. keep up the good work

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13:43 Mar 11, 2022

Thanks, JW :)

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Hayley Johnson
20:51 Mar 10, 2022

Oh this hits hard. I have been watching the news updates, staring at the pictures and watching the videos...but this brought a new kind of tear to my eyes. Knowing that this is happening, I don't like saying that I loved the ending, but you wrote it very well. Thank you :)

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21:48 Mar 10, 2022

Thanks for the lovely comment. May peace be restored to beautiful Ukraine. I cannot wait to visit there in the near future and immerse myself in its rich culture. The greatest of people!

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Bradon L
03:32 Mar 10, 2022

There is so much depth to this despite it being a short story! It’s kind of like getting one of those small plates of food at a fancy restaurant, taking a bite, and wondering how they added all that flavor in this tiny plate of food. Well done!

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15:42 Mar 10, 2022

That's a great analogy and a wonderful compliment. Thanks for the read, a sad story for a horrific time. :( To better days.

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Annette Bay
16:18 Mar 08, 2022

What a deeply moving story and so beautifully written. My heart goes out to the brave people of Ukraine!

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16:53 Mar 08, 2022

Slava Ukraini!

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❀Leo Fall❀
03:24 Mar 07, 2022

Geez. You all really know how to pull at the heartstrings. This a wonderful story. I like how realistic it seems. It's not completely focused on the casualties, and the fight scene, but more of how the son just wants things to live. It's really cool.

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15:17 Mar 07, 2022

Brutal times. Kafkaesque. Praying for Ukraine. Slava Ukraini!

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❀Leo Fall❀
15:43 Mar 07, 2022

It really is. I hope everything ends nicely.

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L.M. Lydon
21:12 Mar 06, 2022

This is devastating and heart-rending. The juxtaposition of the father and the dog's fates, the little details like the grandmother's dinners (the comparison between the icy and the dining room table was beautiful), and the description of the refugees all bring the story to life. Thank you for writing this at this time.

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21:30 Mar 06, 2022

I had to. 😞 I don’t know what else to do with my grief.

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Chris Campbell
04:29 Mar 05, 2022

Deirdre, very touching story. Aside from his father's fate, any animal story tugs at my heart. To this day, I still can't watch the movie, "Bambi." This was a well-written contemporary tale. I'm sure the current situation in Ukraine will inspire more stories like this.

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18:13 Mar 05, 2022

Bambi? Try Dumbo. Shooting the mother is one thing. But locking her up and having her rock her abused child through jail bars? Brutal. Disney wasn't messing around. God bless Ukraine, and those who suffer everywhere for greedy old tyrants.

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Chris Campbell
01:03 Mar 06, 2022

Hear hear!

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Okashi Kashi
04:04 Mar 05, 2022

Short but beautiful. Once again I'm envious of your ability to pack such a strong story into such little word count. Loved this.

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18:13 Mar 05, 2022

Hard to write this one. :(

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Okashi Kashi
21:36 Mar 09, 2022

Oh, I can imagine. Coming back to this after seeing the rest of the stories under this prompt, and I'm still sad :-(

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21:37 Mar 09, 2022

Just terrifyingly evil.

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23:16 Mar 04, 2022

Wow wow wow! I have no words for your beautiful and thought-provoking story. The world needs to read this!

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23:21 Mar 04, 2022

The world needs to STOP this. Ugh.....war. Pure evil. Thank you for the read, Katelin. Wonderful compliment! Wishing you peace in whatever part of the world you're from.

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01:38 Mar 05, 2022

Same to you!

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Phil Manders
12:56 Mar 03, 2022

Hey D, You are brave to tackle this but you did it beautifully. We are helplessly watching from a safe distance. This story took us into the heart of it. Makes me shudder. ❤️

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13:04 Mar 03, 2022

Thanks, Phil. That's what fiction is suppose to do - engender compassion. I wish I could have done it better, giving voice to all the millions who suffer for absolutely no reason. The earth is full. There is enough.

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Heidi Selig
15:58 Mar 03, 2022

yes, bravo.

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Suma Jayachandar
03:15 Mar 03, 2022

Beyond the politics of Power,glory and patriotism war is a sheer waste of immense human potential... Every single time. And your story holds a mirror to that heartbreak I feel😢

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12:02 Mar 03, 2022

Well said, Suma. How much unrealized human potential is buried underground, wasted, just to sate old men's vanity?

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Amany Sayed
01:44 Mar 03, 2022

This is such a beautiful and sad story. And I'm with the previous commenter too- the title and poem corresponding are wow as well. The ending is so heartbreaking, you can practically hear my heart shattering into a million pieces. Really well done, and really well-fitting with the prompt too.

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12:04 Mar 03, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind comments. We are collectively angry and weeping all over the world.

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Shea West
23:09 Mar 02, 2022

This is aptly timed and a slice of life (albeit a really fucked up slice of the current lives in the Ukraine) story. Deidra, I appreciated the brevity of this story because it spoke volumes about what we're all witnessing right now. This line: But the old men had seen the same troubles in their own day, disheartened that no lessons had been learned. They push forward even though they know this doesn't end well. Such heaviness. I'm in your fan club!

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Shea West
23:09 Mar 02, 2022

I just looked up the meaning of the title too. Chef's kiss!

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00:25 Mar 03, 2022

I borrowed the title from WWI poet Wilfred Owen, who wrote this while recovering from getting gassed and shell shock (!) in the trenches. This line rings especially true these dark days: "The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori." (It's a Latin phrase from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” No, it's not. Never has been.) The last stanza is scathing. Dulce et Decorum Est BY WILFRED OWEN Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,...

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Shea West
00:44 Mar 03, 2022

Holy cow😮😮😮 That was amazing and whoa. You ever read something and wish you'd found those words, because damn!

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00:46 Mar 03, 2022

Yep. I went back and clarified the ending. I think this works better, and Wilfred Owen was badass. He also was sent back to the front and died in the trenches, like most of the Englishmen of his generation. Waste. Utter, stupid, waste. War is pure evil.

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00:47 Mar 03, 2022

ONE WEEK -- AGHHHHH. This: On November 4, 1918, just one week before the armistice was declared, ending World War I, the British poet Wilfred Owen is killed in action during a British assault on the German-held Sambre Canal on the Western Front.

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Alex Sultan
11:56 Mar 10, 2022

I like how you went about this story, friend. I enjoyed reading it. Anti-war pieces are always needed as a reminder of how terrible war really is. It can be a difficult topic to write about. Wars of conquest are something you'd think we'd learn to avoid as humans, but here we are - glory to Ukraine.

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12:20 Mar 10, 2022

Slava Ukraini

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J.C. Lovero
12:23 Mar 09, 2022

Hi Deidra, As always, another great piece from you. I appreciate how you included the dog in the story, not only as a source of conflict for Andriy but also to make the protagonist more relatable to us as the readers. Thank you for sharing this story with us!

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15:43 Mar 10, 2022

Thanks, JC. I wasn't planning on the dog showing up, but it just did. Just underscores how usually the weak and lowly suffer under the domination of wicked powerful men. Praying for peace.

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